While developing an addiction to the Khao Jee Pate served on weekends at Richmond's Anchovy, I also checked in with the restaurants owners, Jia-Yen Lee and chef Thi Le on how they're planning their next steps.
1. How are you feeling about the reopening of restaurants? Are all the rules/regulations viable - in the short term - for a restaurant like Anchovy?
We’re not 100% sure about opening yet. We’ve taken measurements and know that if we do we can have nine guests plus waitstaff per service.
We are deciding if it’s feasible to run the restaurant with all the overheads and such limited numbers.
We’re considering costings based on lower spend per head and timed seatings and if we make $100 profit is it worth opening?
Our approach is to take a step back and see what the landscape looks like as it changes all the time.
2. What’s surprised you most about yourselves over the last eight weeks?
We are rolling with the punches.
Two or three years ago we were in financial strife and we managed to pull through and that difficult time has helped put us in a better mental position for this time.
We looked at the numbers - and thought it’s shit - but this time around, we are calmer with the professional and personal parts of our lives.
Our stress threshold and tolerance is much higher. We know it’s not the end of the world and we know we can get through it.
[JY] I’m drinking so much more! Thi confirms that means she’s drinking half a glass of wine a day.
3. How are you and your teams?
We’re going well. We needed other things to keep us engaged. We focussed on our camper van, fixing it, doing it up and that has helped our personal well-being.
When we closed our staff included three chefs, all from overseas, one of them found herself with nowhere to stay. We have a spare room and she initially stayed with us rent-free until she decided to go back home to France.
Two years ago we moved Anchovy from a restaurant that was open six to seven days to four days a week. We don’t have a big team and we know we’re lucky.
We’ve been there, we know what it’s like.
Our small team is doing well. We Facetime with everyone and at first, we closed for two weeks to think about what to do*.
We are like family so we gained a lot of strength from each other.
We’ve kept our staff on. Our sous chef was happy to work two or three days a week so we can give the kitchenhand work too.
The positives in all this madness has been the strong sense of community that’s been built. We talk directly to our farmers and producers and they’ve been so generous.
We’re on our way to Milking Yard Farm to cook Bruce and his team lunch. They’ve helped us so much with chicken, we wanted to say thank you!
*Anchovy sells Khao Jee Pate for lunches Friday to Sunday and offered a takeaway Laotian menu for dinner Wednesday to Saturday.